The aortic valve and the mitral valve are the most commonly replaced valves. Pulmonary and tricuspid valve replacements are fairly uncommon in adults.
Replacing a narrowed valve:
The most common valve surgical procedure is aortic valve replacement for aortic stenosis, or narrowing of the aortic valve. Mitral stenosis is another condition that sometimes requires a valve replacement procedure.
Replacing a leaky valve:
Aortic regurgitation, (sometimes referred to as aortic insufficiency) is another common valve problem that may require valve replacement. Regurgitation means that the valve allows blood to return back through the valve and into the heart instead of moving it forward and out to the body. Aortic regurgitation can eventually lead to heart failure.
Mitral regurgitation may also require a valve replacement. In this condition, the mitral valve allows oxygenated blood to flow backwards into the lungs instead of continuing through the heart as it should. People with this condition may experience shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats and chest pain.
Surgical options for valve replacement include:
- Mechanical valve — a long-lasting valve made of durable materials
- Tissue valve (which may include human or animal donor tissue)
- Ross Procedure — “Borrowing” your healthy valve and moving it into the position of the damaged valve aortic valve
- TAVI/TAVR procedure — Transcatheter aortic valve replacement
- Newer surgery options
The procedure chosen will depend on the valve that needs replacement, the severity of symptoms and the risk of surgery. Some procedures may require long-term medication to guard against blood clots.
You have options when choosing a heart valve. Survivor Robert Epps shares the factors that influenced his own heart valve choice:
A Patient’s Perspective on Understanding Your Heart Valve Options
Will my valve replacement require a “sternotomy”? (Or opening of the chest bone)
Valve replacement procedures may require a sternotomy or, in some cases, may only require a series of small incisions.
What should I expect after surgery?
Many people are able to go on to live a full and healthy life.
Mitral valve repair can often provide a very normal life to the patient without the need for ongoing blood thinners and other modifications associated with valve replacements.
Aortic valve replacement is more likely to require ongoing medication, but any one person’s post-operative medication will depend on that person’s condition and risk factors.
Understanding your heart valve problem: Which solution may be right for you?
Walk through a step-by-step interactive guide explaining your valve issue and treatment options with helpful videos, text summaries and links along the way.
Your Heart Surgery: Realization and Repair